Tropical Storm Zeta forms in Caribbean with threat to southeastern U.S.

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Oct. 25 (UPI) -- While Hurricane Epsilon churns in the open Atlantic, the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico have been quiet ever since Hurricane Delta made landfall in Louisiana back on Oct. 9. That is about to change this week as Tropical Storm Zeta has developed in the western Caribbean, and an additional disturbance shows potential for tropical development in the region, one of which could become the next hurricane.

Only one other storm in history has been named Zeta, with Tropical Storm Zeta forming on Dec. 28, 2005. That Zeta was also the second tropical system on record to exist during two different years, as it continued to churn in the Atlantic until Jan. 6, 2006. The name Eta and every name used from Greek Alphabet for naming tropical systems after it have never been used.

Tropical Depression 28 formed 255 miles south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba on Saturday evening, with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph. By early Sunday morning, Tropical Depression 28 had further intensified, officially becoming Tropical Storm Zeta. A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for the province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba and a Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the northern tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.

In the 11 a.m. advisory, Zeta was about 290 miles south-southeast of the western tip of Cuba and about 275 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. It had maximum sustained winds of 49 mph and was stationary.

The second disturbance, with a lower overall chance to become an organized tropical system, is a broad area of downpours and thunderstorms from South Florida across the northern Bahamas. Still, both will bring impacts to portions of the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S. into the upcoming week.

"Through this weekend, both areas will work together to bring a swath of heavy downpours across much of Cuba into South Florida and the northern Bahamas," explained AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski. "However, by the end of the weekend, the disturbance near the northern Bahamas will begin to shift north along the Carolina coast, while the other area slowly drifts west toward the western tip of Cuba and the southern Gulf of Mexico."

Torrential downpours and flash flooding will be a threat through the remainder of the weekend for places like Key West and Miami, Florida and Nassau and Freeport, Bahamas. A few stronger thunderstorms could also produce localized damaging wind gusts or even a few waterspouts.

Much of the region will see a general 1 to 4 inches of rainfall. However, portions of southern Cuba will bear the brunt of heavy rainfall, as 4 to 8 inches of rain is expected with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 14 inches in and near the mountains where the steep terrain will work to squeeze out even more tropical moisture.

As the northern disturbance moves along the Southeast Atlantic coast, it may further organize into a tropical or subtropical storm. A subtropical storm has some tropical and some non-tropical characteristics.

"A non-tropical disturbance moving through the Southeast will also interact with the feature along the Southeast coast Sunday," Pydynowski explained. With this, heavy downpours will expand north across the Carolinas Sunday, regardless of whether an organized tropical system develops."

By early week, any potential tropical system near the Carolina coast will then be swept eastward out into the Atlantic.

Tropical Storm Zeta could become much more impactful than the disturbance along the Southeast Atlantic.

"This system will gradually drift northwestward through the end of the weekend, passing somewhere near the western tip of Cuba and the eastern Yucatan peninsula before emerging in the southern Gulf of Mexico," Pydynowski said.

The system could strengthen into a tropical storm or perhaps even a hurricane by the time it approaches the Yucatan Peninsula and western Cuba at the end of the weekend or early next week.

Interests in the region should consider getting preparations ready now for the potential for heavy rain and gusty winds. Hurricane Delta formed in similar conditions and strengthened very rapidly before eventually making a first landfall in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, as a Category 2 hurricane.

After this, the system will emerge into the southern Gulf of Mexico, where it will then turn north as it is picked up by a storm system bringing early season snow and ice to portions of the southern Plains and Southwest.

"A storm system over Texas early next week should steer this system north toward the central or eastern Gulf Coast. This will also increase wind shear across the Gulf of Mexico, which may prevent further strengthening of the system."

Still residents all along the Gulf Coast should pay close attention for yet another potential landfall from a tropical system next week. This would be the 11th tropical system to make landfall in the U.S. in 2020. Hurricane Delta was number 10, which broke the record of 9 from 1916.

Eventually this tropical system will be absorbed by a non-tropical system moving eastward across the U.S. later this week. This could bring the potential for widespread heavy rain stretching from the Mississippi Valley to the Northeast and perhaps even the first snow of the season for some portions of the Northeast.

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